Kicking off the rest of fall sports


It’s time for fall sports after a fun summer away and as always, there are plenty of storylines to follow as we get back to work.

My focus last week was on football so this week’s column will focus on the non-football sports. We have teams and athletes that will be making noise, so let’s see where we’re at as we enter the final week of the preseason.

Here are some of the storylines that I’ve got my eye on:

Last season was a whopper for our girls soccer teams and it looks like it’ll be another strong lineup this time around.

Toll Gate won its second title in three seasons last fall and the Lady Titans should be right back in the thick of things. Last season the team lost three starters, including its top scorer in Olivia Dutra, but still managed to beat the odds to finish as champions. Adeline Areson returns from injury and girls like Isabelle Lafontaine and Kaitlyn Pale also return. It will be up to the younger players to fill out the rest of the roster.

Pilgrim should be a powerhouse again, even though things will be different without coach Tom Flanders who stepped down during the offseason.

The Pats have loads of experience returning. Keeper Jenna Madden will be back in net as girls like Amaya Coffie, Haylee Marcotte and Riley Bromage also are back in the mix. Flanders’ departure may slow the process down in the early going, but make no mistake about it, Pilgrim should be a contender once again.

The Johnston Panthers dropped down to Division IV last season and were the best team until a playoff upset ended their season. This team should be the favorite to return to the postseason and win it all with Kaylee Poole, Ava Waterman and Alexia DiLorenzo returning. It’s essentially the same core with another year of experience.

As for the boys, Toll Gate went undefeated in Division IV last season but lost in the championship match. The Titans graduated 11 seniors including leading scorer Aiden Preuit, so it could be a rebuilding season. I am not ruling the Titans out, but they will need some youngsters to make a splash early to make a run.

Cranston West is also looking to return to the playoffs after graduating a large core. I expect senior Sam Naiefeh to be a big part of the team’s attack along with Chris Melise.

Hendricken also made the playoffs last season as a dark horse, which for Hendricken is pretty unusual. It was a nice bounce back season and the Hawks should not be overlooked this time around.

The theme of our boys teams continues in that Hendricken said bye to a handful of key seniors from last year’s group including Mike Paquette and Landon Picillo. Michael Pezzullo, Xavier Wilkins and Tommy Flanders return, but I believe the biggest question is who takes over in net for Brendan Sisson?

Hendricken will once again be the favorite to win the cross country state championship. The Hawks’ win last year was perhaps their most impressive in the past few years considering they did not have a runner that was a true contender to win the individual title.

Luckily for Hendricken, there will be plenty of returning runners including Jack Moretta and Ollie Ide, who both turned in nice outings at the state championship. It will be a fun race to watch between the Hawks and La Salle, as well as Saint Ray’s now that Devan Kipyego has graduated. This could come down to the wire on championship Saturday.

On the girls side, I’m looking forward to seeing Keaney Bayha’s junior season for Pilgrim. She burst onto the scene as a freshman, taking home a top-10 performance, but last season was dealing with nagging injuries but still managed to take 15th. A fully healthy Bayha would have cracked the top 10 last season, so now as a junior, that should be more than achievable and perhaps she can climb even higher. Toll Gate’s Alison Pankowicz will also be back on the course after taking 21st at the state meet, so this could be a fun race between the two Warwick runners.

From there, we have a bunch of teams that turned in solid performances last season that could take a step forward.

The Pilgrim field hockey team reached the playoffs and could be on the rise, as well as Toll Gate and the Cranston co-op which seems to be on the right tack.

Pilgrim’s girls volleyball team could also take that step from good to great this season, along with Johnston who will be coached by Greta Lalli, who is one of the best in the business.

Cranston East, West, and Toll Gate girls tennis will also be worth watching as all three clubs return after solid campaigns last fall. Again, these teams are in that group that is looking to take the step forward from good team to great team … playoff team to championship contender.

Tune in each week to get my breakdowns and takes on fall sports. It’s great to be back.

pitch, fall, sports


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